A COUNCIL has been criticised in an independent report over its transport services for disabled people.

An investigation into Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council's social care services for disabled people also found a lack of leadership among staff, lack of information to the public and problems with staff training.

The report by the Social Services Inspectorate said that the department operated a fleet of buses that transported disabled people between services across the rural borough.

Users complained that the service was inflexible, that journey times were too long and that the appearance of some of the vehicles, painted with the words Community Care, stigmatised the disabled passengers on board.

The Inspectorate, which made its investigations in November, said many of the problems had not improved in the past year.

Strategic partnerships with other organisations were poorly developed, and there were delays in responding to some disabled people's needs.

Overall, the report concluded that "prospects for improvement were uncertain and would remain so until there was tangible evidence of the council's commitment to tackling some deep-seated issues".

The report, by the Social Services Inspectorate, was discussed at the authority's executive committee yesterday.

But Gail Hopper, the report's author, said there were some positive points about the authority's performance.

She said: "There was good quality individual practice by staff and positive comments about individual staff.

"There were committed, experienced and knowledgeable staff as part of the department. However, there was a recognition that there was a need to modernise."

Colin Moore, chief executive of the council, stressed the positive aspects of the report and said: "This is not a report saying we are poor, it isn't saying we are not going to improve. It's the next stage up from that. It's saying we're good in some areas and need to do better in others."

But Maurice Bates, recently appointed director of health and social care, said work needed to be done.

He said: "I do see this as a critical report. I think it is important for me to acknowledge that there is some substantial criticism in the report."

Mr Bates said the relationship with the NHS Primary Care Trust would be built up and the problems would improve in the next two to three years.